Electoral Reforms in Uganda

A Study Report on the Suitability of Uganda’s Electoral Systems for the Realization of Uganda's Development Goals

The Young Leaders Think Tank for Policy Alternatives conducted research on the necessity of electoral reforms in Uganda and the nexus between elections and Uganda’s journey to realizing its development goals. The publication gives a background on the existing policy and legal framework, presents the results of the research, and gives policy recommendations for electoral reforms.

The peace and prosperity of a country is often dependent on a number of factors that include among others, a sound electoral process. The reality, however, is that in many young democracies where the culture of accountability and transparency is suppressed by regular incidents of tribal politics and other forms of corruption, it becomes increasingly difficult for the citizenry to reap the rewards of a democratic electoral process. Generally, accountability challenges of this nature often extend to electoral management bodies that are the guardians of the national electoral process, which is critical for the realization of a country’s development agenda. Such bodies must therefore be transparent and carry out their mandate independently in order to successfully execute their tasks. It is also important that all stakeholders both within and outside the policy making arena closely monitor and propose areas for reform in the electoral process where necessary. It is only through this form of monitoring partnership that the contribution of the electoral process to development will be improved.

Following the enactment of the 1995 Constitution, Uganda has enjoyed regular elections during the set constitutional time frames. The electoral process has had a number of results, both positive and negative— in the pre-1995 period, many elections led to coup d’états due to dissatisfaction with electoral results whereas after 1995 some of the benefits have included the re-emergence of political parties following the 2006 referendum on the return to multi-party politics. The widening of the political space has also brought with it more logistical and electoral challenges. Oftentimes, both the presidential and parliamentary process has been challenged on different grounds ranging from electoral malpractice, fear and intimidation of voters, electoral violence et cetera. A range of actors including the Electoral Commission itself, Parliament, the Government, the Judiciary and civil society actors have all in one way or another contributed to the evolution of the electoral process and also consistently contributed to the discourse on areas for electoral reform.

Based on this background, the Young Leaders Think Tank for Policy Alternatives conducted research on the necessity of electoral reforms in Uganda and the nexus between elections and Uganda’s journey to realizing its development goals.

The results of the study indicate an above average understanding of electoral issues and the role of the various stakeholders. It also finds that the existing legal and regulatory framework for elections is not sturdy enough to guarantee free, fair and peaceful elections. Additionally, from the study it is clear that the content of electoral reforms should cover both institutional, as well as legal and policy issues. The government must be at the forefront of developing a better electoral legal regime. Finally, the study finds that other factors such as poverty and tribalism, also contribute to lowering the effect of elections in promoting democracy and development aspirations.

The reforms suggested by the respondents include, but are not limited to, a new electoral body; the passage of a new act to regulate elections; the need for funding of political parties; and finally, the importance of less police and security forces involvement in the political process.

published

Uganda, December 1, 2014